The Amhara Women Entrepreneurs’ Association (AWEA), which is the umbrella organization of businesswomen in the Amhara region, was founded by sixty businesswomen in the year 2000. The association is registered by the Amhara Regional State Bureau of Justice as a non-profit organization and holds the registration certificate from the same office. For about two years, AWEA made modest progress by serving as the voice of its members. Eventually however, the association began to experience leadership and management problems. Trust relied solely on voluntary services by the top management; attempt made to cover all ten zones with out adequate manpower, finance and material resources; absence of proper channel of communications with members; and consequently slow decision-making process of the executive committee; were some of the drawbacks of the association.
In 2003 AWEA was restructured, a new executive committee was elected, and full time professional staff were hired. Presently, AWEA operates in four zones at Bahir Dar special municipality, North Gonder zone, East Gojjam zone and West wollo zone, and the head office is located at Bahir Dar.
AWEA is managed by a Board of five members drawn from the four branch offices. Positions of the executive committee are voluntary and filled through democratic election. The president of the association is elected by the executive committee on rotating basis from each branch.According to the bylaws, election of Board members takes place every two years and the last election took place in 2008. Similarly each branch office is run by a committee of five members that make decisions on the affairs of respective branch offices.
The association has been attracting more women entrepreneurs as members each year. Now AWEA has over 3000 members, with nearly 2,000 active/paying members. In an effort to strengthen its financial position and reduce its dependence on donors support, various mechanisms have been utilized. In this regard, AWEA has increased its membership fee rates from three to five Birr and also started to charge fees for members’ participation in trade fairs, also rents out tents as source of income for the association.
AWEA has 17 full time professional staff members both at the regional office and branch offices. The staff members comprise of the regional director, secretary cashier, branch coordinators, BDS facilitators, accountants and other supporting staff members. According to AWEA constitution, the day today activity of AWEA is taken care of by the executive director.